Nicolas Pepe: Unai Emery’s faith in me has been vital
The Ivory Coast international moved to the Emirates Stadium from Lille for £72m in the summer, but initially failed to justify that price tag during a difficult start to life in England.
That all changed on Thursday night, however, as he came off the bench to score two free-kicks and secure the Gunners a 3-2 Europa League win over Vitoria.
The Portuguese side looked on course for a shock win at the Emirates before Pepe twice scored inch-perfect set-pieces, the second of which came in stoppage time.
Pepe said: “The manager trusts me. Even if I hadn’t been decisive for a while, I always had the manager’s trust. It is always important to have the manager’s faith.
“It is a league totally different to Ligue 1, with a different intensity.
“For me, I had to adapt quickly because expectations were high. Unfortunately, it is not what I did at the beginning but I have always had the manager’s trust and the players have supported me.
“I keep working hard to perform well and adapt to the Premier League.”
Before his match-winning cameo on Thursday, Pepe had scored just once in his first 11 appearances after converting a penalty in another 3-2 comeback win, this time over Aston Villa.
Now he is hoping his free-kicks against Vitoria can mark a watershed moment for both him and the club this season, starting with the weekend visit of Crystal Palace.
Emery was happy for Pepe but batted away questions about Mesut Ozil’s absence from the squad.
“Scoring two goals is good for the confidence,” he said. “The most important, though, is that there is a win at the end. It shows our mental strength and our character.
“We had already done it against Aston Villa where we were behind and came back. Now, we can focus on the Crystal Palace game which will arrive very quickly.